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Harris is new principal at Fifth Ward Elementary

REBECCA BURK ELLIS / L’Observateur / August 14, 1998

ST. JAMES – The new principal at Fifth Ward Elementary is very familiarwith her surroundings. Clara Harris has been teaching in St. James Parishfor over 30 years and 25 of those years were at Fifth Ward.

“I love the children and I love the people here,” Harris said. “I’m glad thatI have been given the opportunity to be acting principal.”But her experience isn’t only limited to Fifth Ward. After earning herbachelor’s degree from Southern University, Harris began teaching in 1966 at Burton Lane Elementary in St. James Parish. It was beforedesegregation and that particular school was a black school. When theschools were desegregated she went to Fifth Ward, which then was a boys school for blacks and whites. When schools became coeducational she wasat Fifth Ward.

Most recently she was a Title One teacher at Fifth Ward. But before thatshe also had one-year stints at other schools in the parish. She taught atVacherie Elementary for a year and St. James High for a year.”I’ve taught first through eighth grades so my experiences are pretty varied,” Harris said.

During her years in the classroom she also was able to earn her master’s and Plus 30 from Southern.

At Fifth Ward Harris plans to make some big changes. One of the firstthings she wants to do is raise test scores. At the beginning of the schoolyear she is planning to set up a meeting with all of the teachers so together they can analyze the test scores and see where the students’ strengths and weaknesses lie. “We will brainstorm to find out what thecause for this was,” she said. “Then we will come up with solutions toremedy the situation and strengthen the students’ scores.”Another thing Harris hopes to boost is parental involvement. “We want tolet the parents know that they are needed,” she said. “They are an integralpart in their child’s education and we need their support.”One thing she will do to get the parents involved is to have workshops to teach the parents how to help their children with their homework.

Harris is also making plans for more staff workshops so students will be more successful. “The students are now taking the IOWA tests and in orderfor them to be successful, the teachers need to know the format,” she said. “We will have experts come in and help the teachers to know what toteach.”In other programs, Harris said the school is going to develop conflict resolutions and a mentoring program. “If we show the children that welove them they can become the people they want to be,” Harris said.

“Because God didn’t put anyone on earth without a gift. We just have tonourish it and bring it out.

“Our motto is ‘It’s a great place to learn,'” Harris added. “And from thebus drivers to the janitors we will all make it that. We want happychildren and if they are happy they will learn.”